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HandWiki. Rebekah Jones. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/38064 (accessed on 24 April 2024).
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Rebekah Jones
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climatology gis hurricanes

1. Introduction

Rebekah D. Jones (born July 1989) is an American geographer, specializing in using geographic information system (GIS) data science to track hurricanes and climatology. She used geographic information system software to create the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, but was fired from her job in May 2020, which she said was due to her refusal to hide COVID-19 data. Jones is often referred to as a whistleblower; she was granted whistleblower protections by the Florida Office of Inspector General in May 2021.

2. Education and Career

Jones graduated cum laude from the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University with dual degrees in earth science and journalism in 2012. She received a dual master's degree in geography and mass communication at Louisiana State University in 2014[1] where she won an award the same year from the Association of American Geographers.[2] In 2015, her research on "Quantifying Extreme Weather Event Impacts on the Northern Gulf Coast Using Landsat Imagery" was published in the Journal of Coastal Research.[3]

Jones was also a graduate student in the Department of Geography at Florida State University from 2016 through 2018[4] where she completed course work with an emphasis on data science and was working on a doctoral dissertation titled Using Native American Sitescapes to Extend the North American Paleotempestological Record Through Coupled Remote Sensing and Climatological Analysis.[4][5][6]

In September 2018, she became a geographic information system analyst at Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee.[1][7] From November 2019 until May 2020, Jones was GIS manager for the Florida Department of Health, where she assisted in creating a geospatial presentation for Hurricane Michael.[8] She used Geographic information system software to create Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard.[1][5][9][10]

3. Firing from the Florida Department of Health

On May 18, 2020, Jones was fired from her position at the Florida Department of Health.[11] According to Jones, state officials pressured her to strategically align COVID-19 case data with Florida's goal to reopen the state.[12]. Documents filed by Florida's health department later confirmed two components of Jones' whistleblower complaint, with the Miami Herald reporting that "Sworn affidavits from Department of Health leaders acknowledge Jones' often-denied claim that she was told to remove data from public access."[13] According to Jones, state officials pressured her to strategically align COVID-19 case data with Florida's goal to reopen the state.[12].

The Associated Press reported that Jones' public remarks led to her firing; the report cited state records detailing repeated warnings by her supervisor not to publicly discuss her work without permission. On May 6, after these warnings were ignored, her supervisor was told by human resources to fire her. Jones was subsequently reassigned, but an email she sent out to researchers and other data recipients on May 15, which suggested her reassignment should cast doubt on the data's integrity, ultimately led to her firing on May 18.[14]

Her initial allegations amounted to disagreements about the method by which the state computed test positivity rates, which had been previously announced on April 24, as well as a state policy on reopening of rural counties, which was permitted under federal guidelines.[14] Jones also alleged that the state ordered her to delete positive test results from January 2020. A spokesperson for the Department of Health responded that the dates Jones referred to were "event dates" which corresponded to dates when individuals may have come into contact with the virus, rather than dates when they tested positive. The spokesperson also criticized Jones' COVID-19 dashboard for including antibody tests, for counting virus tests with antibody tests, and for counting non-resident deaths.[15]

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said she has provided no evidence.[16] The governor's spokesperson claimed that she was dismissed for making unilateral decisions about the dashboard without consulting others on the team.[17] Writer Charles C. W. Cooke also challenged her claims in a column for the National Review.[18][19][20]

In response to her firing, Jones launched an independent COVID-19 data dashboard for the state of Florida.[12] Her dashboard differed from the state in how it presented tests: it counted the number of individuals tested, while the state counted the number of tests administered (i.e., multiple tests for a given individual could be reported).

Jones is often referred to as a whistleblower; she was granted formal whistleblower protections by the Florida Office of Inspector General in late May 2021. That perception is not universal, as her claims have been challenged.[12][18][21][22][23]

3.1. Police Search Warrant

On December 7, 2020, at 8:30 a.m., state police executed a search warrant upon Jones' home,[24] where they confiscated electronic devices including her personal phone and laptop computer. She posted video of the encounter on Twitter taken from a home security camera.[25][26] Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement later that day that the warrant was issued because Jones was suspected of hacking into a Florida Department of Health computer system and sending an unauthorized message to members of the State Emergency Response Team on November 10, 2020.[27] The alleged statement urged recipients to "speak up before another 17,000 people are dead".[28]

In a press interview later that morning, Jones denied sending the unauthorized message. She stated that because the authorities seized only her personal electronic devices and not other electronics in her house that could have been used to send the unauthorized message, she does not think she was the target of the investigation at all, but rather that her phone was seized so authorities could identify the Florida Department of Health workers with whom she had been communicating, including her confidential sources.[29]

On January 16, 2021, an arrest warrant was issued for Jones by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claiming she illegally breached state systems and downloaded the confidential contact information for nearly 20,000 people and sent a message to state employees telling them to "speak out." Jones stated she was not allowed to speak to the media about the charges because it could "result in the police 'stacking' additional charges".[30][31] Jones turned herself in on January 18 to the police, after which she tested positive for COVID.[32]

3.2. Dropped Lawsuit

Jones filed a lawsuit on December 20, 2020,[33] against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Commissioner Rick Swearingen[34] alleging that the police obtained a "sham" search warrant whose true purpose was to retaliate against her. Her suit claimed that one of the FDLE agents grabbed her "without consent, authorization, or legitimate basis" while searching her home.[35] She also alleged that the FDLE violated her First Amendment free speech rights, and had performed an unlawful search and seizure when they confiscated computers and her personal cell phone.[33] Attorneys for Jones sought damages and a jury trial, stating in the 19-page lawsuit, which was filed in Leon County court, that "They entered her home with guns drawn, terrorizing her family."[34] On Feb 6, 2021, court records show Jones dropped the lawsuit against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, although the disposition of her seized property remains unresolved.[36] Bodycam footage was later released by FDLE, though this footage did not show the officers entering the house, as seen in the footage from Jones' home security cameras.[37][38]

4. Subsequent Activities

In June 2021, she was suspended from Twitter for violations of the Twitter Rules on spam and platform manipulation.[39][40] Governor DeSantis' office welcomed the suspension, with a spokesperson calling it "long overdue" and accusing Jones of spreading "defamatory conspiracy theories".[41][42] A day after her suspension from Twitter, she announced her intention to run against U.S. House Representative Matt Gaetz in the 2022 United States House of Representatives elections but subsequently downplayed her announcement in another post, saying that if a Republican or Democratic challenger did not appear, "Well, November 2022 is a long ways away".[43][44]

Jones launched her campaign for Florida's First Congressional District in July 2021.[45] Though she filed with the FEC as an independent, she later had to change her filing to run as a Democrat due to voting and election laws signed by Governor Desantis before Jones declared her candidacy.[46][47] Her campaign was endorsed by Daniel Ellsberg.[48]

5. Legal Issues

Jones has had prior criminal charges in Florida. At the time of the police raid, Jones was facing an active misdemeanor charge for allegedly cyberstalking a former student and romantic partner and for publishing sexual details about their relationship online. She was fired from her Florida State University teaching position for threatening to fail her estranged romantic partner’s roommate.[49]

She had also faced prior charges, including felony robbery, trespass, and contempt of court, stemming from an alleged violation of a domestic violence restraining order related to the same ex-boyfriend, but those charges were dropped. Prior to that incident in 2017 Jones had been arrested and charged with criminal mischief for vandalizing her former romantic partner’s SUV, but those charges were later dropped, as well.[12][49][50][51]

Jones also faced criminal charges in Louisiana in 2016, where she was arrested and charged by the LSU Police Department with one count each of battery on a police officer and remaining after forbidden and two counts of resisting arrest after refusing to vacate a Louisiana State University office upon being dismissed from her staff position.[52][53]

6. Awards and Honors

In 2020, Jones was recognized by Fortune magazine's 40 Under 40 in Healthcare for founding Florida COVID Action.[54] On December 26 that year, Jones was named Forbes ' Technology Person of the Year for creating an alternative Florida COVID-19 tracking dashboard and later another for tracking COVID-19 in Florida schools.[55]

Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions. Edit

References

  1. Cox, Jay (31 March 2020). "Alumna Tracks the COVID-19 Outbreak". Syracuse University. https://www.syracuse.edu/stories/rebekah-jones-covid-19-dashboard/. 
  2. "2014 Specialty Group Awards | AAG". http://www.aag.org/cs/about_aag/grants_and_awards/annual_conference_grants/2014_specialty_group_awards. 
  3. Jones, Rebekah (2014-07-09). "Quantifying Extreme Weather Event Impacts on the Northern Gulf Coast Using Landsat Imagery". Journal of Coastal Research 31 (5): 1229–1240. doi:10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-14-00065.1. ISSN 0749-0208. https://doi.org/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-14-00065.1. 
  4. Sassoon, Alessandro Marazzi; Waymer, Jim (21 May 2020). "Accusations fly around dismissed Health Department official, but questions about COVID-19 data persist". Florida Today. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2020/05/21/florida-health-department-manager-rebekah-jones-dismissal-becomes-political-covid-19-data-questions/5230770002/. 
  5. Geraghty, Este; Lanclos, Ryan (20 April 2020). "COVID-19: Dedicated Scientist in Florida Made Quick Moves to Map the Disease". Environmental Systems Research Institute. https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/blog/scientist-maps-florida-covid19-cases/. 
  6. Jones, Rebekah D.. "Rebekah Jones Academic Record". https://fsu.academia.edu/RebekahJones. 
  7. Jones, Rebekah D.. "Quantifying the Impact of Hurricanes, Mid-Latitude Cyclones and Other Weather and Climate Extreme Events on the Mississippi-Alabama Barrier Islands Using Remotely Sensed Data B.A". https://www.academia.edu/42167864. 
  8. Hinson, Parker; Jones, Rebekah (2019). "Florida Department of Health's Hurricane Michael GIS Response". Esri User Conference 2019. San Diego, California. https://proceedings.esri.com/library/userconf/proc19/index.html. Retrieved 2020-12-08. 
  9. Taylor, Langston (22 May 2020). "Ousted manager was told to manipulate COVID-19 data before state's re-opening, she says". Tampa Bay Times. https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/05/22/ousted-manager-was-told-to-manipulate-covid-19-data-before-states-re-opening-she-says/. "Jones was 30 years old in May 2020" 
  10. "Rebekah Jones @GeoRebekah , the fired GIS data scientist from Florida, Launches new #Coronavirus Dashboard, FloridaCOVIDAction". 2020-06-12. https://gisuser.com/2020/06/rebekah-jones-georebekah-the-fired-gis-data-scientist-from-florida-launches-new-coronavirus-dashboard-floridacovidaction/. 
  11. Sassoon, Alessandro Marazzi. "Florida scientist was fired for 'refusing to manipulate' COVID-19 data, she said". https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2020/05/19/florida-scientist-refused-manipulate-covid-19-data-and-fired/5219137002. 
  12. Mazzei, Patricia (11 December 2020). "A State Scientist Questioned Florida's Virus Data. Now Her Home's Been Raided.". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/11/us/florida-coronavirus-data-rebekah-jones.html. 
  13. Sassoon, Alessandro Marazzi. "Records in Rebekah Jones case give peek at Florida COVID-19 response". https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2021/06/04/florida-whistleblower-rebekah-jones-gives-a-look-behind-the-scenes/. 
  14. Farrington, Brendan; Calvan, Bobby Caina (May 23, 2020). "Public remarks prompted Florida virus data curator's firing". Associated Press. https://apnews.com/eaf591c566f99175234d0d3d031777bf. 
  15. Iati, Marisa (June 16, 2020). "Florida fired its coronavirus data scientist. Now she's publishing the statistics on her own.". The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/12/rebekah-jones-florida-coronavirus/. 
  16. "Home of fired Florida data scientist who built COVID dashboard raided by FDLE". 2020-12-08. https://www.wesh.com/article/rebekah-jones-florida-house-raid/34898377. 
  17. Mansoor, Sanya (June 15, 2020). "Fired Florida Data Scientist Creates Competing COVID-19 Tracking Site and Suggests State Is Hiding Important Information". Time (magazine). https://time.com/5853398/florida-fired-scientist-coronavirus-data-rebekah-jones/. Retrieved 2020-12-08. 
  18. "Rebekah Jones, the COVID Whistleblower Who Wasn’t" (in en-US). 2021-05-13. https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/05/rebekah-jones-the-covid-whistleblower-who-wasnt/. 
  19. "Rebekah Jones, Florida's COVID-19 Whistleblower, Seems Like a Fraud" (in en-US). 2021-05-13. https://reason.com/2021/05/13/rebekah-jones-floridas-covid-19-whistleblower-seems-like-a-fraud/. 
  20. McLaughlin, Kelly. "The Florida COVID-19 data 'whistleblower' crashed the state's dashboard and locked out her manager before she was fired, the National Review reports" (in en-US). https://www.businessinsider.com/rebekah-jones-florida-covid-19-whistleblower-dashboard-national-review-2021-5. 
  21. "Fired Florida employee receives whistleblower status". 2021-05-30. https://apnews.com/article/florida-coronavirus-pandemic-health-04d20114301ebcd1d7494a9a061eb3e7. 
  22. Sassoon, Alessandro Marazzi. "DOH whistleblower Rebekah Jones 'turning herself in' to face new charge". https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2021/01/16/florida-doh-whistleblower-rebekah-jones-turning-herself-in-face-charge/4184101001/. 
  23. Bloch, Emily. "Rebekah Jones Tried to Warn Us About COVID-19. Now Her Freedom Is on the Line". https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a35714647/rebekah-jones-florida-covid-19-data-whistleblower-arrest/. 
  24. "Florida Agents Raid Home Of Rebekah Jones, Former State Data Scientist" (in en). https://www.npr.org/2020/12/08/944200394/florida-agents-raid-home-of-rebekah-jones-former-state-data-scientist. 
  25. Chute, Nate (7 December 2020). "Watch video of FDLE agents entering Rebekah Jones' home with guns drawn". Tallahassee Democrat. https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2020/12/07/rebekah-jones-florida-raid-covid-19-coronavirus-dashboard-scientist-ron-desantis/6483823002/. 
  26. Jones, Rebekah [@GeoRebekah] (8 December 2020). "1/ There will be no update today. At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech. They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint. They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids..". https://twitter.com/GeoRebekah/status/1336065787900145665. 
  27. Klas, Mary Ellen; Ceballos, Ana (7 December 2020). "Did COVID data whistleblower hack Florida's emergency alert system? Police raid home". Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article247680010.html. 
  28. Ross, Allison (27 November 2020). "Florida's emergency communications channel hacked, according to state official". Tampa Bay Times. https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2020/11/27/floridas-emergency-communications-channel-hacked-according-to-state-officials/. 
  29. "Florida police raid home of former Covid-19 scientist". Cuomo Prime Time (CNN). 8 December 2020. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/12/08/florida-raid-coronavirus-scientist-cpt-intv-rebekah-jones-vpx.cnn. 
  30. Davis, Jason (January 16, 2021). "Arrest warrant issued for former Florida Dept. of Health analyst Rebekah Jones". WPTV-TV. https://www.wptv.com/news/state/arrest-warrant-issued-for-former-florida-dept-of-health-analyst-rebekah-jones. 
  31. Saunders, Forrest. "Experts predict challenging legal battle for former state of Florida employee Rebekah Jones". https://www.wptv.com/news/state/experts-predict-challenging-legal-battle-for-former-state-of-florida-employee-rebekah-jones. 
  32. Burnside, Tina; Yan, Holly. "Fired Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones turns herself in to jail and tests positive for Covid-19". https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/18/us/rebekah-jones-data-scientist-surrender/index.html. 
  33. Grenoble, Ryan (2020-12-22). "Florida Data Scientist Rebekah Jones Files Suit Over 'Sham' Raid". https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rebekah-jones-florida-lawsuit-raid_n_5fe229afc5b6e1ce83365d63. 
  34. Burke, Peter (2020-12-21). "Attorneys for Rebekah Jones call FDLE raid 'a sham' in lawsuit". WPTV. https://www.wptv.com/news/state/attorneys-for-rebekah-jones-call-fdle-raid-a-sham-in-lawsuit. 
  35. Devine, Curt (21 December 2020). "Fired Florida Covid data scientist's lawsuit calls search of her home 'retaliation'". CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/21/us/rebekah-jones-florida-lawsuit-invs/index.html. 
  36. Tampa Bay, 10 (8 February 2021). "Rebekah Jones, former coronavirus data worker, drops lawsuit against FDLE". WTSP. https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/regional/florida/rebekah-jones-coronavirus-data-florida-drops-lawsuit/67-a77012d6-de44-4d55-ba0e-e9f21c90255a. 
  37. "Florida police raid house of fired data scientist who alleged state manipulated covid-19 stats" (in en-US). Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/12/07/rebekah-jones-covid-19-dashboard-florida-desantis/. 
  38. Schweers, Jeffrey (2020-12-10). "Rebekah Jones: Questions linger over FDLE handling of search warrant as bodycam video released" (in en-US). https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/local/state/2020/12/10/rebekah-jones-body-camera-video-released-search-tallahassee-home/6507491002/. 
  39. Evans, Zachary (7 June 2021). "Twitter Suspends Fraudulent COVID Whistleblower Rebekah Jones.". Yahoo News. https://news.yahoo.com/twitter-suspends-fraudulent-covid-whistleblower-172804851.html?guccounter=1. 
  40. "Covid Whistle-blower Rebekah Jones is challenging Rep. Matt Gaetz" (in en-US). https://news.yahoo.com/covid-whistle-blower-rebekah-jones-201300869.html. 
  41. Choi, Joseph (2021-06-08). "Rebekah Jones's Twitter account suspended, DeSantis cheers" (in en). https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/557384-rebekah-jones-twitter-account-suspended-desantis-cheers. 
  42. Thebault, Reis; Iati, Marisa (June 7, 2021). "DeSantis applauds fired whistleblower’s Twitter suspension, the latest in an ongoing feud". Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/06/07/rebekah-jones-twitter-desantis/. 
  43. "Rebekah Jones Announces, Then Walks Back Plans To Run Against Matt Gaetz" (in en). 2021-06-08. https://news.wfsu.org/state-news/2021-06-08/rebekah-jones-announces-plans-to-run-against-matt-gaetz. 
  44. "Fired Florida data official Rebekah Jones yo-yoes on congressional bid" (in en). 2021-06-08. https://www.wptv.com/news/state/fired-florida-data-official-rebekah-jones-yo-yoes-on-congressional-bid. 
  45. Nazaryan, Alexander (August 6, 2021). "Data scientist who clashed with DeSantis returns to Florida, preparing to run against Matt Gaetz" (in en-US). https://news.yahoo.com/data-scientist-who-clashed-with-de-santis-returns-to-florida-as-covid-surges-preparing-to-run-against-matt-gaetz-162223028.html. 
  46. Washington, District of Columbia 1100 Connecticut Ave NW Suite 1300B; Dc 20036. "PolitiFact - What’s in Florida’s new election law?" (in en-US). https://www.politifact.com/article/2021/jun/02/whats-floridas-new-election-law/. 
  47. Jones, Rebekah (2021-08-12). "Major Announcement: Campaign shifts to Democratic Party for compliance with new Desantis laws" (in en). https://www.rebekahjonescampaign.com/post/major-announcement-campaign-shifts-to-democratic-party-for-compliance-with-new-desantis-laws. 
  48. Jones, Rebekah (2021-07-20). "Daniel Ellsberg: "We need Rebekah Jones in Congress"" (in en). https://www.rebekahjonescampaign.com/post/daniel-ellsberg-we-need-rebekah-jones-in-congress. 
  49. "Criminal Stalking Case Against Fired Florida Health Data Scientist To Drag Into August". WUFT (TV). 22 July 2020. https://www.wuft.org/news/2020/07/22/criminal-stalking-case-against-fired-florida-health-data-scientist-to-drag-into-august/. 
  50. Desai, Jigsha (8 December 2020). "Who is Rebekah Jones? Former Florida COVID-19 data scientist had home raided by authorities". USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/08/rebekah-jones-coronavirus-scientist-dashboard-ron-desantis-florida-covid-19/6488291002/. 
  51. Armus, Teo; Iati, Marisa (9 December 2020). "GOP lawyer appointed by Florida governor resigns state panel in protest over raid on ousted data scientist's home". The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/12/09/florida-republican-resigns-raid/. 
  52. "FDLE Chief Defends Agents, Says Jones' 'Conspiracy' Allegation 'Sounds Ridiculous'". https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/courts-law/2020-12-16/fdle-chief-defends-agents-says-jones-conspiracy-allegation-sounds-ridiculous. 
  53. "Staff member booked after altercation with LSUPD officers". The Daily Reveille. 5 July 2016. https://www.lsureveille.com/daily/crime-briefs-student-charged-with-three-counts-of-drug-possession/article_14076f2e-3368-11e6-a129-2717ab6bb2be.html. 
  54. "Rebekah Jones | 2020 40 under 40 in Health". Fortune. https://fortune.com/40-under-40/2020/rebekah-jones/. Retrieved 2020-12-08. 
  55. Popkin, Helen A. S. (2020-12-26). "Forbes Technology Awards 2020: Geeks Step Up When Governments Fail". Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/helenpopkin/2020/12/26/forbes-technology-awards-2020-geeks-step-up-when-governments-fail/. Retrieved 2021-01-14. 
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